A unique experience to try in Japan is staying in a capsule hotel. Capsule hotel craze started in 1979 in the Umeda District, Osaka!
The first capsule hotel was designed by Kisho Kurokawa as an extension of the Tokyo Nakagin Capsule Tower which was built in 1972 featuring tiny capsule apartments used for mixed residential and office use.
Today, there are many capsule hotels in Japan. Capsule hotels vary in size and have anywhere from 50 capsules to as many as 700. They offer cheap basic overnight accommodations for guests who just need a place to sleep in for the night. The rooms are typically modular plastic or fiberglass blocks approximately 2 by 1 by 1.25 meters. Just enough for a person to sleep in.
Capsule hotels are usually for men only although there are some hotels that have floors for women. Facilities vary but the typical units usually include a TV and a wireless internet. Capsules are stacked side by side, 2 units high. Curtains or blinds are provided for privacy. You will be given a locker for your belongings.
Upon checking in you are expected to take off you shoes and slippers and a gown will be provided for you.
There are communal baths separated by gender, so men will bathe with men and women with other women. There are some guidelines for using the communal bath. Make sure that you wash your body and your hair before entering the bath. If you have tattoos you need to cover them with bandages or not take a bath at all. Tattoos are typically prohibited because of their organized crime connotations in Japan.
Some hotels have restaurants, pools and other facilities depending on the size of the hotel. These capsule hotels provide an alternative for people left behind by the last train, weary businessmen and those who may be too drunk to go home.
There are now some modern capsule hotels such as the 9Hours although they call their capsules pods. It is located in Kyoto and they offer accommodations for both men and women. They even boast of a sleep ambient control system and specially designed pillows for better sleep.
The current rates for capsule hotels range from US$20 to US$50 per night.
Sleeping in a capsule can be a bit claustrophobic but a unique experience you can only try in Japan.